The very first dress in the Costume Close Up book matches my measurements pretty well, so I thought I’d be quite clever and pattern it up for my own use. I want a stomacher front open robe for Battle Road and a 1763 event this summer, so what better place to start than with an original ca. 1756-1760 gown?
I laced up my stays on Friday and spent much of the day measuring, drawing, cutting, and sewing. By mid-afternoon, I had a muslin with the devil’s own sleeve and a large measure of frustration.
Yes, I ate, it wasn’t just low blood sugar that caused all this unhappiness. For the public safety, there are no photos of the ensuing debacle. But the situation was not irreparable, as I have been in this miserable place before.
( To add to the fun, my stays have stretched, and now give the impression that they slip down throughout the course of the day. They do this even while I am not especially active: I’d dismissed the sensation at Fort Lee. Oh, it’s the hours in the non-18th century seat, it’s running around the site, it’s one more lame excuse I’m making up. Nope. Suckers have stretched and will require attention. Also, for being slightly more than one year old, ought they to have wear marks from tying on petticoats? Next time, I’m using cotton, since it doesn’t stretch like linen.)
I got out the basic bodice block I’d patterned in June, and adjusted that to have a straighter, more horizontal waist line and made the bodice fronts narrower. The robings with be pleated to have a layered look, for which this Norwich wool gown at CW is the inspiration. I stitched up a muslin of the altered bodice block, and wouldn’t you know, it fit. It’s a relief to know that some measure of frustration eventually pays off. Maybe.
By Saturday night, I had the lining sewn up and Sunday morning, I attached the lining sleeves (I like to check the fit and have something to beat the fashion fabric sleeve against.) That meant I was ready for the terrifying step of cutting and sewing the actual wool. I have enough of it that I can mess up and redeem the problem, what I don’t have enough of is time. Certain gentlemen have garments in need of alteration, and creation, you see.
Since this is the third or fourth or fifth time I have wrestled with the 18th century gown cut en fourreau, I know what I am getting in to. I know about the three hours for four pleats. I know the heartache of hand stitching the back only to realize you have introduced a wiggle. What I don’t know is how to keep this in perspective.
I followed along with Koshka the Cat’s en fourreau tutorial, which I found incredibly helpful. It won’t keep you from introducing a wiggle into your seams, but you will get the seams in pretty much the right place, as long as you’re honest about your measurements. It’s only a little bit Richard III up there in the center seam….
It’s good to be a perfectionist, but sometimes you have to just let go and sew. I’m still learning how to live with that.